Wednesday, 30 August 2017

On Leaving Behind The Influence Of The Bruderhof. The End of An Affair

A fabulous piece of art I found on this page.

Until tonight I have continued to try to like and affirm the Bruderhof, a Christian community in the anabaptist tradition.  I have tried for years. I used to succeed.  At one point their literature saved my faith - although I honestly wish now it hadn't.  At that time I was going through a very difficult period and was finding Christian faith hard to accept.  Someone in a support group - an atheist of all people - pointed me to the Bruderhof because they were giving away a few free books.  Without those books I would almost certainly have left Christianity behind in 2001.  It's fair to say that for some years I loved their books, magazines, articles.  From works like Inner Land by their founder, to works by the Blumhardts, to writings about war, and their publications by other people such as Daniel Berrigan, the Jesuit peace campaigner.  I treasured those books.

I liked the Bruderhof especially for their pacifism and love of justice.  They say many things that people of good will can agree with and even, sometimes, aspire to.

On the other hand though they love injustice too and call it Biblical. Hence this article, published today. It's an article that calls LGBT+ affirmation a "plundering" of marriage from our society, an "extinction crisis," and a "looming disaster" that we mustn't forget when dealing with flood victims. (Really. It says that.)

I've just come back from Greenbelt, a mostly Christian festival attended this year by more than 11,000 people, a festival that's affirmed LGBT+ people for a long time, a festival where I am safe to be transgender and my married gay Christian friends can celebrate their love for each other as well as their love for Jesus and the Bible too.

If I prayed, my prayer for the Bruderhof following the death of their long-term leader would be that the next generation of it could embrace the justice of accepting people just as Greenbelt accepts them. I hope too that their founder, Eberhard Arnold, would have managed to walk in acceptance by now. But given that the article is by the son of the leader I doubt it will happen. (The Bruderhof leadership tends to run from father to son.)

Because to discriminate against queer people and then proudly quote the Beatitudes when anyone says you're wrong is something that I think Jesus himself would have been disgusted by. I'm convinced that he would have said that if you're persecuted for acting unjustly then you bloody well deserve it! Sorry guys but any persecution arising is because of religious bigotry rather than because you're some imagined heir to an Old Testament prophet.

And when you call the idea of accepting people like me an "extinction crisis" you don't deserve to be supported by people like me. Yes, you stand against war and for much that is good. But so do many other groups who have learned not to use and misuse an ancient religious text as an excuse for such homophobic and transphobic statements.

I've enjoyed much that the Bruderhof have published. At one point I had an entire shelf of their books. But it's increasingly hard to own Plough Books knowing they come from an organisation that hates what I am while proclaiming they love people like me.

Perhaps, and with reluctance too, it's time to move on. To chuck out many of those books, especially those written more recently, in an age where homophobia is - at least in the countries in which the Bruderhof operates - a negative counter-cultural statement rather than any kind of societal assumption.
Perhaps I must say goodbye.  It shouldn't be that hard.  I'm no longer a Christian of any variety and as I look at Christians around me a great many work hard for peace, fraternity, love, justice and all manner of spiritual and physical fruits while at the same time embracing the queer communities.
Not just perhaps.  Definitely.
Because I don't need to have my "transgender self-conception" forgiven and overcome.  No thank you.  And when you say that my very existence as myself needs to be forgiven, ultimately that's a statement not of love.  It's a statement of violence, of rejection, of hatred of my very person.

I would say that to any Christian who tells me I need to be forgiven and healed for being transgender.  You hate me.  Pure and simple.  No matter how many fine words you speak about love and truth.  You hate me.

Humbly, people of the Bruderhof, I would ask you to seek new light.  I would ask you to consider whether there are other ways to interpret your holy book and the society and people who wrote it.  Many other Christians have managed to do so and some of those are staunch and unswerving in their great devotion to the texts before them and to the saviour they believe in.

If they can do it, take the risk of having been wrong, can you do it too?

My own love affair with the Bruderhof has been waning for some time.  It is now over.  I can't be in love with those who see me as part of a potential end to the human race just for existing and daring to stand up and be who I am.  I can't be in love with the haters who are too proud to admit they intentionally fail to walk in the love their Jesus speaks of.
Life is too short and too precious to waste more of it in even quiet support of the Bruderhof.  Wisdom must prevail in this case.  When there are Christians like the ones I met at Greenbelt this weekend, who could ever need the Bruderhof?

A couple of follow-on posts for today.
The first concerns a response to the Nashville Statement by a denomination of which I was a member:

The Nashville Statement on "Biblical Sexuality" was recently published by a coalition of conservative Christians. Last night I read the response of the Bruderhof Communities to the statement and it prompted a regretful blog post.

This is the response of Metropolitan Community Church. Until I quit church totally I was a member of this denomination.

I no longer believe in God but I see in this response a far greater witness to all that is life, love, wonder, and compassion. Here's a short section:

"WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives transforming power, and that this power enables a follower of Jesus to put to death the siren song of the sins of legalism, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, and willful ignorance. We affirm that to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord is to walk in the full embrace of all of God's children."

I'd like to thank Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Denomination and Northern Lights MCC for continuing to be beacons of love and inclusion in our communities.

I'd like to thank too all the other Christian groups and individuals who have taken the step of accepting LGBT+ people, sometimes very bravely and with the real risk of total rejection by other Christians.

I'm glad that many such Christians remain my friends. Some of you are LGBTQIA+. Some are not. Thanks to all of you for being you and embracing people like me.
The second concerns the response of a wider group of Christians:

Another follow up to my post about the Bruderhof and the homophobic, transphobic statement released this week by various evangelical Christians.

Here's a response to the statement by a collection of LGBTQIA affirming Christians, some evangelical, some more liberal.

I don't share their faith but I applaud their response. And I see the names of people I greatly respect among the initial signatories.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. But not spam and not obscenity. It's not all politeness though - religion and politics aren't banned.